A sunny day at the park, kids swinging, families holding hands. Dogs and ice cream cones.
If you ask children in Huntingburg, Ind., these are some of the elements of home. And they’ve been captured in a mural now gracing the south side of the Current Blends building at 307 East Fourth Street. Completed in early June, the mural will be dedicated Friday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. during Huntingburg's 4th Friday monthly celebration from 5 to 10 p.m. in Market Street Park, adjacent to the mural.
The mural’s playful look belies the many stages and partners involved in producing it. The colorful imagery enlivening the brick wall was born in the afterschool program at Huntingburg Elementary School, when art teacher Emily Meyer asked her students to draw pictures expressing what home meant to them. In fact, that inquiry began even earlier, when elected officials and community stakeholders met with representatives from the IU Center for Rural Engagement (CRE) and the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design to brainstorm ways to celebrate downtown Huntingburg and increase its vibrancy.
First meeting before the pandemic, IU partners engaged with their Huntingburg counterparts to learn about the city’s economy, history, and culture, as well as the challenges it faced. The group recommended that a public art project would bring attention and activity to the city’s historic downtown. As soon as public health conditions allowed, project director, Eskenazi Associate Professor Martha MacLeish took a walking tour of potential sites with Huntingburg Mayor Steve Schwinghamer and the city’s Director of Communication and Community Development Rachel Steckler. They settled on the city-owned building on East Fourth Street, whose stretch of Italianate and Victorian buildings is recognized as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
MacLeish proposed turning to the community’s children for the mural’s imagery. MacLeish worked with Meyer during the 2021-22 school year to collect pictures from Meyer’s third- fourth- and fifth-grade students. Using Adobe Illustrator, MacLeish worked with seven Eskenazi students to scan 26 children’s drawings and then integrate them into one cohesive composition. The resulting picture was translated to large stencils. Maintaining the original gesture of each student’s drawing in subsequent iterations was a priority for MacLeish. “We tried to be true to the liveliness and idiosyncratic aspect of each piece,” MacLeish said. “We wanted each artist’s individual voice to come through.”
In her effort to translate the children’s drawings faithfully to the wall, MacLeish researched traditional and eclectic techniques, discovering that a sign painter’s electropouncer was just the tool for the job. To execute the mural, MacLeish led a team of five current and recently graduated Eskenazi students to Huntingburg, where they spent a week painting the mural on site and getting acquainted with Dubois County.